So, I’ve made it back again for another go round. And oh what an interesting week this has been. We saw the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, warts and all. The Credit Agency Fitch upgraded Egypt’s credit rating to ‘stable’. Australia’s unemployment rate hit a 10 year high, and the new government received some stern words from the IMF. A Swiss referendum to limit EU migrants passed, angering Swiss businessmen and many in the EU. The US Congress passed a debt limit increase with (comparatively) little drama. The publisher Penguin withdrew publication of a “controversial” book on Hinduism, which just makes me want to read it all the more. And the Thai government began trying to sell down it’s vast stockpiles of rice.
But of course, we all know all that. Let’s get on to the week’s exchange, where we take a look at what stories didn’t make the cut:
1) cause there is major demand for wood in space?
it wasn’t that long ago that I gleefully posted a video of one of the first commercial 3d printers, the Makerbot. But despite the technology having failed to explode into our living rooms like many expected, the story of 3d printing continues to be interesting. This week TechCrunch has an article on two scientists who are attempting to 3d print wood. Actual wood. Out of cells. In space. This is process is an extension of the efforts of other scientists to print biological components ranging from organs to food. If successful, this opens up the possibilities of ‘natural’ made-to-order part, and even the possibility of transporting and storing ‘wood’ in other forms before ‘printing’ to meet requirements. Just think of what Ikea could get up to if they weren’t limited by nature.
2) it’s not something you want to hurry, but…
By the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, huge swathes of the country were covered in land mines, unexploded bombs, shells and IED’s. And in the four years since there have been almost 600 injuries attributed to land mines. Although much of the land has been cleared, there is still an area three times the size of Luxembourg left unswept. Now, Sri Lankan Army Officials say it could take another two or three years before the de-mining is finished. The reason? They left the hardest part til last.
3) for once I wasn’t rooting for the wildebeest
I’m not normally the sort that enjoys the take-down part of the David Attenborough documentaries, but this story/series of pictures by Bob Poole on how Lions are faring in Goronosa National Park is incredible. Poole is interested in how the Lions are coping with the changing environment. And from the look of that Lioness lounging on her back after stuffing herself with wildebeest, I’m thinking the news is somewhat good.
4) if only Polar Bears could read maps
Climate Change has already resulted in some head scratching by nature lovers. Some flora and fauna are appearing in places where they never did before, and others, like the Polar Bear, look to soon be stranded. In response, scientists at the CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency, have created a map of species at risk from Climate Change. It’s a start, but the next step – using our newfound scientific knowledge to affect positive policy change, has always been the hardest.
5) it’s time for the oat-standard
While share markets have been under-performing for the much of the year and there are question marks over monetary policy worldwide, many investors have been looking for a good place to park their cash. But the answer seems an unlikely one. According to business website Quartz, the greatest return to be found so far this year comes from Oats. Yes, the stuff you have for breakfast. Oats have offered a return of 23.22% YTD, beating out every other commodity and investment class. And the reason isn’t weather – which is largely responsible for coffee to second place, but infrastructure.
6) it’s the fourth house past the mango tree
Living a street that has a name is something most of us take for granted. When I was a kid I grew up on a beautiful street named Kokoda. Not only did I live on a street with a name, I lived on a street named after one of the most iconic and celebrated events/places in Australian military history (although few Australians seem to be able to spell it). Giving a street a distinguishing characteristic confers the obvious benefits of things like easy navigation – you don’t have to use landmarks like mango trees on your party invitations. But there is so much more. Once streets have names authorities can start coordinating services like the post, rubbish removal and even road maintenance. Even more, street differentiation begets more efficient taxation, something many countries with nameless streets could do with. A name can literally be the difference between the provision of 20th century amenities or not, and the city receiving revenue or not. Across the world thousands of governments are beavering away giving streets names, and even road signs to match. But as Anny Osabutey from The Atlantic Cities points out, naming streets is just the beginning.
7) reporters sans Freedom
Reporters without borders have released their yearly Press Freedom Index. Both the US and the UK have fallen significantly due to their crack-downs on whistleblowers. The US (46th) has fallen a full 13 places because of the seizure of AP phone records, the conviction of Chelsea Manning, and the legal efforts against reporters James Risen and Barrett Brown. RSF even found it worth noting the UK’s (33rd) detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda. But while many in the West are in decline, a reduction in violence and censorship saw several South American States have significant rises – Ecuador + 25 (94th), Panama +25 (87), Bolivia +16 (94). In my own backyard, it’s incredible to see Timor Leste (77th – +14) shed it’s turbulent past and create a press council. But the overarching theme of the latest index is the worldwide lack of shield laws and sufficient protections for journalists. Many of whom, as we have seen in the past year, are critical for effective democracy. You can read the entire Reporters without Borders Press Freedom report here.
8) this is too depressing to caption…
New research released by the Wildlife Conversation Society finds that 65% of all central African Forest Elephants were killed between 2002 and 2013. A rate of 9% per year. WCS’s press release quotes Dr. Fiona Maisels, one of the researchers, as saying: “At least a couple of hundred thousand forest elephants were lost between 2002-2013 to the tune of at least sixty a day, or one every twenty minutes, day and night. By the time you eat breakfast, another elephant has been slaughtered to produce trinkets for the ivory market.” This is In addition to the 30-odd savannah elephants that are poached every day across Africa. Animals that not only bring joy to many of us, but are vitally important to their respective ecosystems.
9) foxholes not necessary
I never put much stock by the adage that there are no atheists in foxholes. In some respects I find the sentiment offensive. However, there is a lot of power in this photoessay Umit Bektas of exiled Syrian Christian families holding their religious services. The images drive home the power and comfort that religion can provide in such times. “We would like to go back to our country but not much of a country is left. To be frank, we would like Assad to stay. We were living a happy life before the civil war began. Especially for us Christians, life was good, and we had no trouble. We are extremely scared of what’s happening right now, watching every day in the news, they’re massacring Christians.”
For those sane enough to have never gotten mixed up in the intricacies of American sport, there is an NFL team called the Red Skins. Now, obviously, many find this name offensive. And over the past couple of years pressure has been building for the owner to change the name. With advertisements for the Superbowl running in the millions for only thirty seconds, the National Congress of American Indians were never going to run their protest commercial. And fans of the Red Skins’ owners probably would have shut their eyes anyway. But here it is for the rest of us to think about.
Well, that’s all for this week. Hopefully the exchange will be back again next Weekend. Same Bat Channel.